Designs in Mind design and make products for local retail, and working in textiles, wood, wire and glass, transform spaces with bespoke commissions. All their designer-makers are adults referred through mental health services and are members of Designs in Mind. Through this work they aim to challenge mental health stigma and the predominant culture of low expectation which surrounds their makers.  Having been established as a spin out group from the NHS nearly 15 years ago, they were at an important inflection point with the desire to secure their future by investing in a new retail brand, making then less reliant on grants and government funding through the local Clinical Commissioning Group. The challenge was to plan this effectively and ensure everyone within Designs in Mind was both aware, aligned and fully behind what needed to be done and the investments they would have to make.


We ran an away day with the staff and many of the members of Designs in Mind to look at their current approach and really explore and refine their goals over the next 12-24 months.  This also involved one to one chats in advance across the team, to make those coming on the day feel more comfortable and to give them an opportunity to share any of their concerns in advance, so we could make sure to cover it on the day.  Following the day, we worked together to agree an action plan for the immediate future and the following 3-4 months.  Over a period of around 6 months since, we have become a sounding board as plans have developed and helped introduce the senior team to a range of people in our networks that have helped them to realise their goals, including impact measurement specialists, experienced experts in delivery and commissioning of mental health services, and national sector bodies.


The session and subsequent follow-ups have enabled some internal frustrations and fears to be aired and discussed.  Over time this has ensured these have been properly address, easing tensions as the organisation changes.   It also helped to galvanise the team around a common set of goals and drive towards them, not least the development of the retail brand.  Designs in Mind agreed to invest in new staff and materials to support the retail operation shortly after the away-day and have since secured high profile contracts, e.g. to design and make the annual Social Enterprise UK awards.  We know this is the start of big things for this fabulous social enterprise.

“It feels like something significant was unlocked as a result of the away-day we had with Practical Governance, and we haven’t looked back since.  Many of the staff and members were sceptical about the need for a day like this, and more than a little nervous about it.  The way you approached really helped change the dynamic – I had people going in to the pre-event calls with you under serious duress, and coming out feeling energised and excited about the day!  The ongoing support and connections since have also been invaluable for us.  Without that I really don’t think we would be where we are today – on the verge of something truly game changing for the future of Designs in Mind”
Catherine Wilkes, Social Business Manager, Designs in Mind CIC


We actually lost the write-up of the away-day work on the way home from the event.  A major panic.  As it turns out, however the reflection from the client was that having the full write up of the day may have actually been counterproductive in that it may have burdened the team with a range of very specific actions points.  As it was, everyone left feeling in a very different place to when they arrived, with a clear sense of the most important decisions and understanding of how to resolve any fears or frustrations.  We learnt as we have with many clients, that the detailed planning and actions are not what drives the change ultimately and that keeping things tight and focussed in the big decisions and cultural shifts is often what really matters.


This work took around 4 days in total mainly focussed around the preparation and delivery of the away-day, plus some additional ad hoc advice and introductions which we provided free of charge.